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Car Rental in Japan

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Car Rental in Japan

When visiting Japan, renting a car can be a convenient and flexible way to explore the country. However, it’s important to understand the local driving laws and requirements before hitting the road.

Driving in Japan

In Japan, cars drive on the left-hand side of the road, and the speed limits are strictly enforced. It’s essential to have a valid driver’s license and carry it with you at all times while driving. Foreign visitors can drive in Japan with an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a Japanese driver’s license.

Choosing a Rental Car

When choosing a rental car in Japan, consider the size of the vehicle, especially if you plan to drive in urban areas with narrow streets. Many rental cars in Japan are equipped with GPS navigation systems, which can be extremely helpful for navigating the country’s complex road network.

Booking a Rental Car

It’s recommended to book a rental car in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Most major car rental companies have offices at airports and in major cities, making it convenient to pick up and drop off your rental vehicle.

Driving Etiquette

While driving in Japan, it’s important to adhere to local driving etiquette, such as using turn signals, yielding to pedestrians, and following traffic signals. Parking regulations are also strictly enforced, so be sure to park in designated areas to avoid fines.

Renting a car in Japan can provide you with the freedom to explore the country at your own pace. By understanding local driving laws and requirements, and choosing the right rental car for your needs, you can make the most of your journey through Japan.

Rental Requirements

Age Limits

To rent a car in Japan, you must be at least 18 years old. Some car rental companies may have a maximum age limit, typically around 75 years old.

Driving License Requirements

You can drive in Japan with a valid foreign driver’s license for up to one year, as long as it is accompanied by a Japanese translation. Alternatively, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is also accepted. It is important to note that the IDP must be obtained in your home country before arriving in Japan.


When renting a car in Japan, you will need to present a valid passport, a credit card in the primary driver’s name for the security deposit, and any additional documentation required by the specific rental company.

Insurance Information

When renting a car in Japan, it’s important to understand the different types of insurance offered by rental companies.

Basic Insurance

The basic insurance typically included in car rental packages in Japan may consist of Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection. CDW covers the cost of repairs in case of an accident, while Theft Protection provides coverage in case the vehicle is stolen.

Additional Insurance

In addition to the basic insurance, rental companies in Japan may offer additional insurance options such as Personal Accident Insurance, which provides coverage for medical expenses in case of an accident, and Supplemental Liability Insurance, which offers additional protection in case of third-party claims.

Insurance Tips

Before renting a car in Japan, it’s advisable for travelers to check their existing travel insurance policies to see if they already have coverage for rental cars. This can help avoid purchasing duplicate insurance and save on costs. Additionally, it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of the insurance coverage offered by the rental company to fully understand the extent of protection provided.

Local Driving Laws and Regulations in Japan

General Traffic Rules

Driving Side: In Japan, driving is on the left side of the road.
Speed Limits: The speed limit is typically 40-60 km/h in urban areas, 60-100 km/h on rural roads, and 100-120 km/h on highways.

Overtaking and Lane Usage

Overtaking Rules: Overtaking is typically done on the right side.
Lane Discipline: The ‘keep left except to overtake’ rule is followed in Japan.

Seat Belt and Child Safety

Seat Belt Laws: Seat belts must be worn by all passengers.
Child Safety: Children under six years old must use a child seat or booster seat.

Use of Mobile Phones

Mobile Phone Restrictions: It is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving in Japan.

Alcohol and Driving

Legal Blood Alcohol Limits: The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.03%.
Zero Tolerance Policies: There are stricter rules for new drivers, with a zero tolerance policy for those under 20 years old.

Tolls and Charges

Toll Roads: Japan has an extensive toll road network, and payment is usually made at toll gates.
Congestion Charges: Some cities, such as Tokyo, have congestion charges in certain areas.

Roundabouts and Intersections

Navigating Roundabouts: Roundabouts are not common in Japan.
Intersection Rules: Priority is given to the vehicle that arrives first at an intersection.

Headlight and Windshield Wiper Laws

Headlight Usage: Headlights must be used at night and during rain.
Windshield Wiper Rule: There is no specific requirement to turn on headlights when using wipers.

Emergency Vehicles

Right of Way for Emergency Vehicles: When an emergency vehicle approaches, drivers must move to the side of the road and stop if necessary.

Driving Tips for Japan

Road Conditions

Japan has a well-maintained road system with modern highways and well-marked roads. However, some rural areas may have narrower roads and more challenging terrain, so it’s important to be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

Urban vs. Rural Driving

In urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka, traffic can be heavy and parking can be limited. It’s important to be patient and follow local driving customs. In rural areas, roads may be less congested but can be narrow and winding, so extra caution is advised.

Navigational Tips

Using a GPS navigation system or smartphone app can be helpful for getting around Japan, especially if you don’t speak Japanese. It’s also a good idea to have a physical map as a backup, as GPS signals can be unreliable in some areas.

Other Useful Tips

– Be aware of toll roads, which are common in Japan and can add to your driving expenses.
– Speed limits are strictly enforced, so it’s important to follow the rules of the road.
– Parking in urban areas can be challenging, so consider using public transportation when visiting major cities.

Roadside Assistance and Emergency Procedures

Breakdown Procedures

If you experience a breakdown while driving in Japan, the first step is to safely pull over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. If possible, try to move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. Contact your rental car company immediately to inform them of the situation and follow their instructions for further assistance.

Emergency Services

In case of an emergency, it’s important to have the contact numbers for the police, ambulance, and roadside assistance readily available. In Japan, the emergency phone number for police, fire, and ambulance services is 110. Additionally, most rental car companies provide their own roadside assistance hotline that you can call for immediate help.

Rental Company Policies

Before renting a car in Japan, it’s important to understand the support offered by rental companies in case of a breakdown or emergency. Many rental car companies provide 24/7 assistance and towing services to ensure that you are taken care of in any situation. It’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the specific policies of the rental company you choose to ensure a smooth experience in the event of an emergency.

Where can you Rent a Car in Japan?

You can browse all the city locations below, sorted alphabetically. Use Ctrl+F (or Cmd+F on a Mac) to quickly find the one you want to explore.